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U.S. Unemployment Rate Sticks At 8.2 Percent


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block. The big news from Washington today may not sound like big new. The unemployment rate remains stuck at 8.2 percent in June. Hiring was virtually flat compared to the prior months, with a meager 80,000 jobs added to the payrolls. But these days, the weak economy is increasingly a political story as NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: When it comes to the job market, anything short of great news is bad news because a modest addition of jobs amounts to no change in the unemployment situation. And Dan Greenhouse, chief strategist for the trading firm BTIG, says in a nutshell, that's what we got.

DAN GREENHOUSE: The number itself is terrible. We added 80,000 jobs in June. That's the third month in a row of sub-100,000 jobs added and that's obviously unacceptable by any means. But the report as a whole isn't entirely terrible.

NOGUCHI: Greenhouse says incomes, construction jobs and the average hours worked all increased last month, but that's a teeny bit of positive amid a lot of blah. And, he says, politicians divided over whether to push for more stimulus or more austerity need to come up with some combination of both if they want to break this employment log jam.

GREENHOUSE: You're looking at damage being done to the economy in the long term because the longer that you're out of work, the more your skills erode, the less employable, the less useful you are to a potential employer who's looking for someone who's up to date.

NOGUCHI: The White House pointed out that job growth is at least positive and has been for most of President Obama's time in office. Alan Krueger chairs the president's council of economic advisors. He says the White House will continue to push for elements in its American jobs bill that haven't yet passed, including funding for state and local government jobs, infrastructure projects and tax cuts for small businesses.

ALAN KRUEGER: If Congress doesn't act or doesn't act fast enough, the president will continue to use his own executive authority.

NOGUCHI: Meanwhile, the two men vying for the top political job spent some time talking today, not about work but about vacation. National news organizations had run photos of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney vacationing in New Hampshire with his family on his large powerboat. As if to draw a contrast, President Obama told an audience along his bus tour in Poland, Ohio that his childhood vacations involved Greyhound buses and Howard Johnson motels.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If there was any kind of swimming pool, it didn't matter how big it was, right, you'd spend the whole day there and then, you know, you were real excited to go to where the vending machine was and the ice machine and get the ice.

NOGUCHI: The president said it's important to create economic security for the middle class.

OBAMA: That's what made us the envy of the world. Not the fact that we had the most millionaires or billionaires, but the fact that our economy grew from the middle out and there were ladders of opportunity for people to get into the middle class.

NOGUCHI: Romney, who has criticized President Obama for taking vacations during bad economic times, responded to questions about his own vacation.

MITT ROMNEY: You know, I'm delighted to be able to take a vacation with my family. I think all Americans appreciate the memories that they have with their children and their grandchildren. I hope that more Americans are able to take vacations.

NOGUCHI: He said today's jobs report indicates the American middle class is in pain. Romney touted an economic agenda to lower corporate taxes, ease regulation, promote domestic oil production and open up more free trade.

ROMNEY: The president's policies have clearly not been successful in reigniting this economy and putting people back to work and opening up manufacturing plants across the country.

NOGUCHI: But politics aside, today's report raises the possibility that the economy will continue to disappoint, producing just enough jobs to prevent the unemployment rate from going up, but not enough to bring it down. Yuki Noguchi, NPR New, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Science Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. She started covering consumer health in the midst of the pandemic, reporting on everything from vaccination and racial inequities in access to health, to cancer care, obesity and mental health.